Native California Sedum, Sedum spathulifolium

Sedum spathulifolium:
Sedum spathulifolium

I think more of Europe and the Caucasus when  I think of Sedum,  but we  have our own native Sedum--native if you count Northern California, but close enough for me:  Sedum spathulifolium.  I got the purple version (purpureum) from Native Sons.  Sedum spathulifolium is native from mid-California north into Oregon, so I'm guessing it is used to more water than is normally provided by rain here.  The purple-burgundy color is lovely;  it's a good companion to Agave 'Blue Glow'.

I have long had an uneasy relationship with Sedum.  I used to have Sedum sieboldii--beautiful plant, but decidious, and at the time, I was unsure of deciduous succulents.  I still am.

I have been fortunate to have avoided Sedum 'Autumn Joy', which must look good somewhere, though it's simply not a plant I can tolerate.  There are newer, more compact variations on 'Autumn Joy' that are supposed to be better--if they are better looking, that will probably be enough.

Sedum 'Angelina':
Sedum 'Angelina'
Sedum 'Angelina' has  never been  as chartreuse for me as it was when I got it, and I nearly killed it last winter by not watering it at al--it was under patio cover, got no rain, and didn't like that at all, though when I dumped some rainwater in the bowl it came back rapidly.  Other than expecting water at least once or twice a year, Sedum 'Angelina' has been undemanding.   I expect Sedum to act like most other succulents, able to go for months without water, but that hasn't been the case.  I lost a patch of the beautiful chartreuse Sedum makinoi 'Ogon' to lack of water, but since I had several other patches that did  get some water, I still have the plant.

I have so much affection for Sedum 'Coppertone', I forget it is a sedum.  Given time it can fill quite a large area;  I've seen several dense clumps of  3'x3' (1m x 1m) and they looked great.  I hope mine becomes as good.  

Sedum 'Coppertone':
Sedum 'Coppertone'

I have what is purported to be a pink sport of the standard "pork  and  beans" Sedum,  Sedum rubrotinctum (love  that name) and  it is quite reddish pink.  I need to add  a picture of that, as I find there isn't one on  my  computer after all, nor of  S. makinoi 'Ogon', nor of my 'Big Burro' Sedeveria,  which is a cross of Sedum morganianum and an Echeveria, nor 'Sedeveria 'Vera Higgins', a waxy mocha and lime beauty.

'Big Burro' Sedeveria:

If you live in southern California and  have  a patio with hanging baskets, Sedum morganianum seems to be a requirement.  I just barely remember being taken as small child by my parents to visit a neighbor with a back yard like nothing I'd ever seen:  it was one big lathhouse filled with succulents, among them a hanging basket of Sedum morganianum like I've never seen since:  it must have been 6 feet (2 m)  long, without a bare spot anywhere, dozens and dozens of thick ropes of Sedum hanging down.   A big startling impression when most every yard was a patch of bermuda grass and a couple of Oleanders, which were considered kid-friendly plants at a certain point in time.

Sedum morganianum

As a small child I was not allowed near such a magnificent thing (no argument here)  but I remember it.  What riches of  plant-loving hearts lived in my childhood neighborhood, and me too young and too shy to absorb that knowledge!   The  Dudleys across the street with their pink house and their back yard full of roses and peach trees, the Luciers next to the Dudleys with  their cacti lifted from the California desert (collected long before it was made illegal) and their twenty-foot-tall pink Hibiscus.

Sedum 'Lemon Belle'
Sedum 'Lemon Belle' with Coprosma and Carex 'Toffee Twist'

We used to visit there also, and were allowed to pick the Hibiscus flowers and feed them to the Lucier's Desert Tortoise (also courtesy of the California desert, unfortunately--though they took good care of him, and  he led a long, fat, and happy, if celibate life).  His triagular shaped tongue, as I remember, was the same shade of bright pink as the Hibiscus flower.

Mrs. Lucier gave me this Sedum dasyphullum over 40 years ago:

There were also the people by the school with a back yard that was one big miniature railroad--we were only allowed a brief glimpse of it, just once--and those people around the corner who had the lathhouse, as magical as Wonderland to a five-year-old.  I never knew their name, never got growing advice, no tips, no suggestions, no comparisons of successes and failures.  Surely I was just in the way, something to worry about, potential damage to a beloved Crassulae or Agave.  Yet something got passed along--here I am decades on, thinking about plants.  

I'm becoming more reconciled to Sedums now that I've developed some familiarity with them.  I guess I saw too many dried and neglected  'Pork And Beans' in too many pots on too many patios along the long road to here.  It's a good Genus (except 'Autumn Joy').  Familiarity bred contempt at first, but then I learned.


  1. Thanks for the California native photo - beautiful.

  2. thank you - i enjoyed reading your column. i have loved succulents of all kinds, but in the past ten years, i've grown much closer to our native ones. as far as sedum goes, we have several interesting ones. Sedum spathulifolium is the most well-known one and it fills natural bowls in the sandstone outcrops just north of Castro Valley. Another one i like is S. divergens - a rare species from the Cascades which make very nice red trailing 'ropes' in pots which hang on the side of my house. I also grow S. obtusatum - the Sierra Stonecrop and S. oregonensis - which is beautiful, flat and fairly easy to grow. Have you grown any of the Dudleyas?

  3. Thank you Susan! :)

    ebw-pete S. divergens sounds fabulous, I must look for it and S. oregonensis--thank you! I grow and love D. caespitosa, D. brittonii, D. edulis, and D. pulverulenta--nothing very exotic, but wonderful plants.


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